As companies expand their horizon and come out of their regional strong holds, they will need to rethink their SEO strategy in order to expand and make their presence felt on other regional search engines. This post explores some core areas that need to be looked into to gain traction in SEO internationally. But before we head into discussing some of the areas that need to be addressed to rank internationally, let's take a moment to consider what primary groundwork needs to be done.
Need & Market Identification – Understanding the need (goals) of making your business global & identifying potential markets that you plan to target is step #1. Ideally, one should begin with studying the geo target and understanding the scope of one’s business in that region.
Based on your requirements, you will need to streamline your strategies and understand the priorities based on the resources at your disposal.
- Analyze competition in these markets and try to fit in your product/service.
Check for colloquial terms in the region so as to penetrate into that search market. For e.g. you are an online retailer in taps based in the United Kingdom and are currently targeting a keyword like 'kitchen taps uk'. But once you start focusing on say the United States market, make sure to use terms involving the word 'faucet' for e.g. 'kitchen faucets'.
Thus, it is more sensible to collect data around terms, traffic and potential in a specific region and then chart out a roadmap to strategize & implement SEO.
Choosing between domain/subdomain/subdirectory – After having zeroed down on the countries to target, the next consideration will be to understand how to put forth region specific content. This can be done in three ways primarily:
- Country coded top level domain (www.example.co.uk)
- Subdomain (uk.example.com) or
Ideally, going in for the ccTLD option will be the best to gain optimum value from international SEO in the long run as Google considers server locations, IP addresses and geo targeting settings selected by a website in its ranking mechanisms. Alternately, in scenarios where you don't have the resources to develop a ccTLD, leveraging your existing one will still allow for some beneficial results. It will require extra steps to ensure geo-targeting is appropriately communicated to the engines. In such cases where ccTLD's are not chosen, a subdirectory structure is preferred as it is a value addition for one already existing domain which will eventually have a positive indirect impact on the other language/region versions.
Translation & Content – Apt, precise and lucid language based translation of the main content is a must. User experience is negated with poor translation. A short keyword analysis and minor content level changes will be needed for each region. Search sentiment and search query potential needs to be assessed in each region as it varies from country to country. It is also wise to issue directives on language usage to Google using the href-lang tag. For example, imagine having an English language page hosted at http://www.example.com/, with a Spanish alternative at http://www.example.com/es/. You can indicate to Google that the Spanish URL is the Spanish-language equivalent of the English page in the following way:
In the HTML <head> section of http://www.example.com/, add a link element pointing to the Spanish version of that webpage at http://www.example.com/es/, like this:
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="es" href="http://www.example.com/es/" />
Additionally, you will need to add the English language tag on your Spanish version of the page. This is needed site-wide.
These issues a signal to search engines that content on these pages are specific for Spanish speakers and hence they help in adding relevancy. URL structure has been an important on-page factor for single-language SEO. Like-wise for international SEO, it is necessary to ensure that the URLs contain the spoken language of that section and are optimized appropriately. Over optimization of URLs for any language is also not helpful. Our ‘friend’ Panda is a multi-linguist.☺
Geo Targeting – In cases where a local user from say a French town, is looking for an English version of the site but is shown the French translated version, his engagement levels dip. To counter this, having an unobstructed banner that suggests moving to the original version (English) should be made available.
Off Page Link Building – Off page link building should now focus on the new target in addition to the home geo location. It will be beneficial to build links from relevant ccTLD domains and other locally hosted sites. Also building links from relevant languages is a one-up. The back link profile of the site will also give directives to Google about the Geo targeting of your site. Having Google Local listings in cases where you also have physical presence in the region helps. Make sure all of this is done in tandem with your Home region SEO and is complementary not contradictory!
Lastly, geo-specific sites once made need to be submitted to Google Webmaster Tools to update their Geo target preferences and for cases where a sub directory structure is employed, the geo targeting of the current site will need to change accordingly.
Conclusively, following these steps will help you in closing in on a near successful strategy to rollout international SEO for your client. Additionally, I recommend engaging in an internal study to understand other additional factors which can help you push up rankings on search engines. Feel free to connect with me in case of any queries.